Few things can rock a romantic relationship as easily as disagreements over finances. That may be why so many couples would rather have all their financial cards on the proverbial table than be kept in the dark, according to a new survey by Ally.
We asked 500 adults how they approach their finances in a relationship.
The overwhelming majority of couples combine their finances at least partially.
- 46% of people in a relationship choose to fully combine their finances.
- 38% have some consolidated finances but keep some separate.
- Only 16% keep everything separate.
Combining financial forces might be one of the keys to achieving financial goals.
Couples who fully consolidated their finances were more likely than partial sharers to say they stick to a household budget and accomplish financial goals they set.
- 56% of couples who fully consolidate their finances say they have a monthly budget they try to stick to vs. 49% of couples who only partially combine their finances.
- 48% of couples who fully consolidate their finances said they were likely to reach their financial goals vs. 40% of couples who keep finances separate.
When household incomes are higher, couples are more likely to take a fully joint approach to their finances.
- Among respondents who reported household incomes of $100,000 or greater, 53% fully combined their finances with their partners vs. 40% of respondents who reported household incomes under $100,000.
Couples are more comfortable sharing access to checking and savings accounts than investment accounts, mortgages and credit cards.
- Among those who either fully or partially combine their finances, they are most likely to share a checking (73%) or savings account (74%).
- Far fewer respondents who combine their finances with a partner said they shared an investment account (39%), credit card (64%), or mortgage (58%).
Greater financial transparency could lead to more scrutiny.
- Respondents who said they at least partially combined finances were more likely to say they’d get upset if a partner spent more than $100 without telling them.
Couples who take a joint finance approach are more likely to rely on one partner for money management.
- Among those who fully consolidate their finances, 17% said their partner manages most of the finances compared to just 9% of those who partially consolidate their finances.
- Regardless of whether couples fully or partially consolidated their finances, about one-quarter said they shared responsibility (24% and 26%, respectively).
Tips to Keep Your Financial Relationship Going Strong
Be sure you have a foundation of respect and trust. Sometimes sharing your finances with a partner can feel like they are seeing you naked for the first time — all over again! Instead of worrying that they’ll be turned off by the weird birthmark on your leg, you’re sweating over what they’ll think of your subpar credit score or stack of student loan bills. But if you don’t feel comfortable making yourself financially vulnerable, it’s definitely not the right time to combine finances.
Take it slow. Starting the conversation about money is arguably the toughest challenge to overcome. Start by talking about your credit score or a financial mistake you made one night over dinner. See how they react and if they are supportive or critical. If you don’t feel safe and secure baring that tiny fraction of your financial picture, then tell them how you feel or stop the conversation and revisit it another time.
Remember your value as a partner is not in how much money you bring to the table. When one partner earns significantly less than the other, it might make them feel insecure about their contributions to the household. If you are the lower earner, you have to check in with yourself and be sure you’re secure about where you are in your career first. On the flip side, if you’re the higher earner you shouldn’t feel as if you have a bigger say in household decisions just because you bring more money home. To build trust in your partner who earns less, show them with your actions that you value their input and contributions regardless of income. Again, with a foundation of respect and trust in a relationship, you should feel as if your partner will love and support you no matter where you are financially.
Dividing and conquering is fine – but stay informed along the way. Even if one partner is more comfortable managing the household finances, there should still be an open dialogue with their significant other and each person should have login information and a password for shared financial accounts. This is about showing respect and trust for one another to have full access to information.
Join forces to reach joint goals and build a stronger financial foundation. Whether you dream of a taking a second honeymoon or you’re investing together for retirement , take note of this key finding in our survey — couples who manage their finances together were more likely to say they achieved their goals than those who don’t. That could be because having a partner working toward the same goal can provide accountability as well as support, especially when moving the needle on your goals means sacrificing in other ways.
Use smart saving tools to make joint money management easy. With Ally Bank’s Online Savings Account buckets, you and a partner can save toward various goals in one place. Just open a joint savings account, and then choose up to 10 different “buckets” to save towards and name them whatever you want. Add some fuel to your joint savings by enrolling in Ally’s savings boosters, which include surprise savings transfers and recurring transfers. Maybe one partner links their checking account to a surprise savings booster tied to your honeymoon bucket, while the other partner sets up a recurring transfer each payday to pad your household rainy day fund.
Methodology: Online survey of 500 US adults aged 25 or over conducted by Ally on February 3, 2021.
Mandi Woodruff is Chief Consumer Advocate for Ally Financial, where she leverages her deep knowledge of financial education to empower consumers on money matters. She is also co-host and executive producer of the five-star rated Brown Ambition podcast, a weekly show that helps listeners live their best financial and professional lives.
Mandi is passionate about sharing financial knowledge and using the power of storytelling to help people reach their financial goals. Prior to joining Ally, Mandi was the senior content director at LendingTree where her team published hundreds of financial articles. She also worked as both an editor and reporter on the personal finance beat at Business Insider and Yahoo Finance. Mandi makes frequent appearances to discuss personal finance topics as a guest on national and local television programs including Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, CBS This Morning, NY1 and Pix 11.
Mandi serves on the Alumni Board of the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is a member of the National Association of Business Journalists and Higher Heights for America.